Wow. I’m in Amsterdam. After a long day of driving, we were a little punchy by the time that we arrived at the hotel last night. After some pretty deep searching, we chose to stay at the Lloyd Hotel which is a mixed star residence outside of the canal rings of the city. It started it’s life as a glamorous hotel where Dutch and European emigrants could stay while their health check up and background check cleared before leaving the country. Later, it served as a prison for Nazi sympathizers during the times when Amsterdam was trying to keep the Reich at bay, then turned into a reform school for wayward boys before being remodeled into an art space hotel. There are rooms that range from one star (in the basement, share bathrooms) to 5 star (top floor, views, luxurious fixtures and settings and, in my case, a swing in the middle of the room) and the guests all intermingle–the schmaltzy and the schmutzy alike.
We walked to dinner towards a residential area that came highly recommended by the front desk and stumbled into a steak house located in what used to be a large brigk pumphouse. The sign at the hostess stand said, in large flowery lettering, “I’ll be right back, darling!” So we waited. Moments later, a six foot five inch tall drink of Fernet Branca sashayed in working seven inch heels like they were flip flops. He was STUNNING. Chiseled cheekbones, a Kentucky Derby worthy black hat dipped low over one eye, silky black panties and a floor length black lace drape. I started for a second–mostly because I was wondering if he would give me makeup tips, then he smiled and crooned, “Heeeeelllloooo! Four for dinner?” Well kids, welcome to Amsterdam!! We proceeded to eat an amazing meal on the patio under a thin Netherland sun. Wine, steaks, a salad of smoked lamb, barley, dates and pomegranates, and poker. Always lots of poker. Everything on the table (including the beef) was locally sourced and succulent.
First thing in the morning (noon), we found a little tapas place on the canal adjacent to our hotel where we sucked down cafe lattes and omelettes to prepare for the exploration of this already wonderful city then hopped a tram to the Central Station.
The day was filled with wonder. The architecture in this city can’t be compared to anything that I’ve ever seen. It’s so utterly DUTCH. Most of the buildings were build over water or silt so, in the older sections of the city, the red shuttered lovelies are leaning in towards each other as if in a tete a tete that started more than seven hundred years ago and is still as lively as the day it began. Anne Frank lived here, as did Rembrandt and Van Gough. There are windmills, Heineken Beer, diamond cutting factories, and, of course, the red light district. We spent most of the day just wandering the streets and boating the canals wondering how old the buildings were, how much it would cost to just close up shop stateside and move into a houseboat in Amsterdam for the rest of our lives. The Ginger bought a new sketch book from the Art Market. The Giant carefully critiqued the Torture Museum against the Torture Museum that he had seen in San Gimignano in Tuscany . . We had a wonderful time.
A friend had recommended a dinner restaurant called Seasons in the heart of the city. We had early reservations which turned out perfect. We drank, laughed and bet our way through three courses and coffee while engaging in the best possible street show. Our patio dining preference might lend itself to some hilarious wobbly minuscule table antics, but we are never bored. Again, everything was farm to table and bursting with flavor. The service was impeccable and the wine was perfect. I was comfortably beering my way through Europe until I read somewhere that Germany’s wines are so amazing that the locals tend to consume all of the good ones prior to export so I have been branching out a little.
After dinner, it was still dusk so we decided it would be an ideal time to walk the boys through the Red Light District. Dusk is when the district transforms so there would be some hair curling, but it wouldn’t be an all out irresponsible parenting moment. It’s not the girls in the windows, the condom shops spaced evenly between Donor Kabob shops and sex toy shops or the crazy antics of the stoned revelers that will forever stick in our memory of the Red Light District. It will be the time that Kevin had one too many beers for his bladder and had to use the STREET URINAL. In Public! And my kids wouldn’t let me photograph it for you. Sorry.